Created By: aurora369 on January 20, 2012 Last Edited By: aurora369 on October 8, 2012
Nuked

Fantasy Metals

Metals with miraculous properties, not found in the Periodic Table, used for weapons, armor and stuf

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
I'm including the old markup. It Needs More Examples! (just when those itchy tropers who cannot launch correctly but try anyway will stop...)

Okay, I'm rewriting this trope to fit the requirements for a good article.

In Real Life, a metal is an element of the periodic table which belongs to one of certain groups/columns and has a specific type crystal lattice with free electrons. In fiction, especially fantasy, a metal is shiny stuff with wonderful properties like super strength, lightness, magic resistance and so on, often not resembling any of the metals found in the periodic table. Metals that are brittle, soft, flammable, react violently with water or air or are otherwise useless for smithing swords and shields from them never appear in fantasy, despite there being a lot of these in Real Life. This trope (a supertrope to Mithril and Orichalcum) describes the "shiny and wondrous" kind of metals.

Note that this is mostly a Fantasy trope. Science-fiction examples are only good if they are from a work that is "science" in name only (such as four-color comics or space fantasy like Star Wars or Warhammer 40,000); harder-science materials actually explained as high-tech alloys with some verisimilitude aren't. In a nutshell, Wolverine's adamantium and Boba Fett's Mandalorian iron are examples of this trope, but a composite alloy of titanium and carbon nanotubes isn't.

Real Life examples are only allowed if they are in fact occult superstitions (like hard mercury) or well-known hoaxes (like red mercury).

The most often-encountered types of fantasy metal are:

Mithril (variously spelled mithral, mythral or mythril): a lightweight, very strong, silvery metal, similar to the real-world metal titanium. The name is Sindarin for "silvery glitter". Appeared in J.R.R.Tolkien's Lord of the Rings as an Infinity Plus One Metal, but in later examples it's a mid-level miracle metal only, above steel but below adamantium.

Orichalcum (variously spelled orichalcon, orihalcon or orichalc): a metal first appeared in Plato's version of the Atlantis myth. The name means "mountain copper" in Greek, and it, indeed, often appears the color of copper or bronze. Orihalcum's properties vary heavily from source to source: sometimes its schtick is strength, sometimes it's high value, sometimes it's magic resistance, sometimes it's room-temperature superconductivity.

Adamantium (variously spelled adamantine, adamantite or adamant): this troper is unsure where it first appeared, probably also in Greek myths, but the name comes from Greek "adamas", that means diamond. And, indeed, this metal is diamond-hard and much more strong and resilient than diamond to boot.

Meteoric iron (variously called sky iron, Thunderbolt Iron, star iron, and so on) is a real alloy, but its depiction in fantasy is very often a very different metal than it is in reality. The typical "miraculous" meteoric iron is a jet-black metal that is much stronger than regular iron and often has magical properties as well.

The list of fantasy metals is much more than that, but most examples are work-specific and shall be listed in the examples list.

A fantasy-specific subtrope (or, maybe, sister trope?) of Unobtainium.


Examples:

  • J. R. R. Tolkien's Arda has, beyond mithril, a jet-black metal called galvorn. Galvorn, even stronger than mithril, is invented by Eol the Dark Elf and the secret of its making was lost when he and his son Maeglin, who also had the know-how, died.
    • The Book of Lost Tales, Tolkien's very early draft for Silmarillion, also gives us tilkal, an Infinity Plus One Metal that can only be made by Aule, the god of blacksmiths. Its name is an acronym of Quenya names for iron, copper, silver, gold, tin and lead, the six naturally occurring metals known to the Elves, used as its ingredients.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has quite a lot of fantasy metals.
    • TES' Mithril is a lightweight, mid-level metal used to make armor. It's otherwise typical and fairly unremarkable.
    • Ebony is a dark gray or brownish-gray metal, sometimes with brown or yellowish veinlets, that is very heavy and very strong, used to make superb weapons and armor.
    • Daedric metal is a special kind of Ebony which is infused with demonic souls. It's dark gray with red veinlets, and, basically, Ebony But More So. It's always the high-end, top of the line metal in the games.
    • Elven Steel is a kind of superb steel with greenish or golden hue. In Skyrim, its recipe was revealed: it's made by treating iron with a mineral called moonstone; the weapons variant of the steel has also some quicksilver (mercury?) added.
    • Orcish Steel was always assumed to be just high-quality steel, but in Skyrim it was revealed (or retconned?) that it's an alloy of iron and orihalcon.
    • Dwarven Metal is a Lost Technology alloy that looks like copper or bronze, but its exact composition (and even its proper Dwemer name) is forgotten.
    • Adamantium is a rare metal in this 'verse, not appearing in all games; in Morrowind it's a high grade, silvery metal for weapons and armor, almost on par with ebony. It's the best metal for making medium armor; technically, Indoril armor is better, but it's bonemold rather than metallic and it's impractical to wear it because it angers Ordinators.
    • "Glass" isn't a metal, but is treated here as metal-like. It's supposedly some kind of super strong, lightweight and resilient volcanic glass that is green. In Morrowind, natural glass was mined; in Skyrim, Morrowind's mines were out of order because of a slight local apocalypse, so glass was smelted artificially by melting moonstone and malachite together.
    • The Elder Scrolls also has Skyforge Steel (technically just steel forged using a special process, but otherwise fits due to the results).

  • In real-world occult alchemy, there was believed that a method exists to make mercury hard at room temperature. At least one medieval Hermetic recipe exists to make a ring of invisibility from hard mercury.
  • Red mercury was a hoax perpetrated by Soviet KGB. It was ascribed some miraculous properties like making simple and compact nukes; the purpose of the hoax was sting operations to catch terrorists and rogue state agents seeking easy ways to obtain nukes.
  • The Star Wars universe contains some:
    • Cortosis, which is a metal hostile to the Force and also with an ability to short out lightsabers. Another famous ability of cortosis is that its ores are constantly electrified and capable of electrocuting anyone who handles them carelessly.
    • Phrik is similar to cortosis, but more tame. It doesn't short out lightsabers, but is immune to them as well.
    • Beskar (Mandalorian iron) is similar to phrik. Mandalorian armors are typically made of beskar.
    • Glasteel is a transparent metal.
  • Adamantine/tium as well.
  • Also from Marvel Comics, Vibranium which can only be found in Wakanda and the Savage Land.

Literature
  • Animorphs has a metal called Ramonite, one of several "living metals", which could among others be stretched thin as to be invisible, negating the need for built-it windows.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has Valyrian steel, and the unnamed white meteoritic metal of the late Arthur Dayne's sword Dawn.
  • Many artifacts of the Mi-Go, Yith, and other Starfish Aliens from H.P. Lovecraft's works were crafted from metals unknown to human metallurgy. (More scifi/horror than fantasy, but could still be worth a mention.)

Tabletop Games
  • The core rulebooks of Dungeons & Dragons have adamantine, mithral, cold iron (effective against fey), and alchemical silver (silver alchemically bonded to steel for use against lycanthropes). Secondary materials include other metals such as starmetal.
    • The Eberron campaign setting introduces byeshk (heavy purple metal useful against abominations), flametouched iron (good-aligned), and Riedran crysteel (psionically charged crystal bonded to iron).
    • First, second, and third edition D&D drow had their own alloy of adamantine (or mithral, depending on the writer) that gave bonuses to arms and armor, but was instantly rendered brittle and useless by exposure to sunlight.

  • The tabletop game supplement Mortdred's Magical Metals includes: Orichalcum, Mithril, Kyrrad, Yaddrakk, Blachalcum (Black Orichalcum), Stellaine, Rosantium, Sarabandium, Vartium, True (-copper, -silver, -lead), Steel (Silvered, Volcano-, Soul, Demon-, Glowie-, Emerald-, Ruby-, Sapphire-, Green-), Pitch Metal, Blood Metal, Gods Copper, Irbynite, Peraltoid, Javednite, Wetznite, Sevenril, Eonmite, Mabril, Raysorite, Bolusture, Antine, Magmir, Iclling, Siderite, Irridesium, True (Iron, Copper, Gold), Mithral, Absolute (Iron, Copper, Silver, Gold), Solarite, Exotic Adamantium, Hard Water, Orchallium, Tarnrill, Tsargo, Earth's Blood, Dwarven (Copper, Electrum, Lead), Greater Gold, Solid Quicksilver, Miner's Tin, Star of (Iron, Copper, Silver, Gold, Platinum) and Fixed Mercury.
  • A list of magical metals on a website. Includes Steel (Dark, Abyssimal Red, Baatorian Green and Forest}, Mithril (Black, White, Silver and Githank), Adamantium, Celestium, Dwarven Blackrock, Illithium, Mechanium, Neutralite and Temporal Silver.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Forgotten Realms
      • The supplement Volo's Guide to All Things Magical had a list of magical metals found in that setting: Adamant, Arandur, Darksteel, Dlarun, Hizaagkuur, Mithral, Telstang and Zardazil.
      • Ed Greenwood's article "Nine Hells Revisited" in Dragon magazine #91 had two metals that were found in the Nine Hells: arjale and tantulhor.
    • The Red Steel setting had Cinnabryl and Red Steel.
  • Call of Cthulhu
    • Masks of Nyarlathotep had "The Copper From Above" (an alien metal used to make an object which was used for a spell) and alien metals with Fictional Colors used to create a rocket.
  • Iron Crown Enterprises
    • The Shadow World setting had Braizium, Enclatine, Quevite, Tayn, Keron, Eog (regular, Black, Grey, White), Arinyark, Electrium, Ithloss, Kregora, Rularon, Star Iron, Taurith, Trystrium, Vaanum and Xenium.
    • Middle-earth Role Playing had Dragon Iron, Tasarang, Ogamur and Mithrarian.
  • The World of Synnibarr had Black Titanium, Forgotten Steel, Gravanium, Hadrathium, Hell Iron, Pelleum, Power Iron, Shadarkeem Metal and Titanite.
  • Arduin Grimouire: Silbony, Aurebony, Ethril (Black Mithril), Adamony (Black Adamantium), Black Gold, Black Silver, Cadrium, Brozahrium
  • In Warhammer 40K there's the unexplained metal that Necrons (a race of Omnicidal Maniacs with their souls bound to regenerating metal bodies) and their technology are made from.
  • Warhammer 40K also has plasteel and ceramite.
  • Magic: the Gathering has Darksteel, which is indestructible.

Video Games
  • Gemstone III: Lysaughton, Mcgrail, Platnite, Catoetine, Elrodnite, Inniculmoid, Boernerine, Neurolite, Fabrinine
  • Warcraft3 has Thorium and Arcanite-forged weapons as Orc weapon upgrades. Thorium is a real metal (element 90,) although it may have been ascribed unrealistic properties.
  • Dragon Age has Veridian, Grey Iron and Red Steel.
  • The Ultima games had Blackrock, which could block magic and which became permeable when electricity was passed through it. Also useful for creating portals between worlds.
  • Terraria has several made-up metals, such as "Meteorite", "Demonite" and "Hellstone", all of which can be melted into extremely strong armor and weapons.

Other/Unsorted

  • Classical Mythology myth had "grey adamant", from which Kronos fashioned his sickle.
  • Eragon's Brightsteel

Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • January 20, 2012
    aurora369
    A lil' explanation for Dreamer.

    What not to do?

    • Mislaunch.

    It happens when you think you know how to launch a trope, but it's not true. It results in an YKTTW displayed as launched but a red link instead of the real article. Before you launch, learn how to do it!

    • Ninja Launch.
    Launching other peoples' tropes (that are not Up for Grabs) without their permission. If they think they didn't finish the trope, you will anger them. If you mislaunch someone's unfinished trope, sucks to be you!
  • January 20, 2012
    elwoz
    Web Comics: Order Of The Stick plays this one straight with "starmetal", and subverts it by having Redcloak summon elementals according to modern chemistry's definition of element (at least Chlorine, Titanium, and Osmium so far).
  • January 20, 2012
    wanderlustwarrior
    Not that it works often, but did you put No Launching Please?
  • January 21, 2012
    aurora369
    I did not put Up For Grabs. That should be enough.
  • January 21, 2012
    AgProv
    "Metals that are brittle, soft, flammable, react violently with water or air or are otherwise useless for smithing swords and shields from them never appear in fantasy, despite there being a lot of these in Real Life."

    Actually, I can think of one fantasy novel where this is the case. In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, the hero, Holger Dansk, wins a dagger from the conniving Elf-Lord in combat. He is puzzled as to what it is for, as the metal is too light and too blunt and too malleable to be of any use for stabbing and cutting. It is, however, named as The Blade of Light.

    Later in the novel he realises (Holger has been exiled from his own world to Earth and has had a science education) it is made of pure magnesium. All he needs do, using it as a weapon of last resort to blind and terrify things of the night, is set fire to it..
  • January 21, 2012
    dalek955
  • January 21, 2012
    aurora369
    ^What to call that? Aversion, inversion or something other?
  • January 21, 2012
    dalek955
    Well, if you had actually convinced yourself that they were fictitious, then it would be a subversion when you found out. Really it's just trivia, though.
  • January 22, 2012
    aurora369
    Sorry, dalek955, but my comment was meant for Ag Prov. When I was writing it, your comment wasn't there.
  • January 22, 2012
    Generality
    The metals in Mistborn have a fantastical element in that they can be used by certain people for magical effects. I'm not sure what to call that, as the metals are mundane, and it's the people who are unusual. But it deserves mention.
  • January 22, 2012
    KZN02
    BIONICLE: Protosteel and Exsidian
  • January 24, 2012
    Arivne
  • February 3, 2012
    dalek955
    • Magic The Gathering has Thran metal, which adjusts its characteristics to best fit whatever it's forged into and self-heals wear and tear.
    • Star Wars has laminanium, which self-heals and is used as droid armor, quadanium which is used in solar panels, and transparisteel for windows. It also has kiirium, which was used for droid armor but is now obsolete.
  • February 4, 2012
    Rognik
    It's hard to read the opening post, with all the replies following it, so I'm not 100% if this is the trope or not:

    Firan MUX has a precious metal of elianosite. It's rarer that gold or platinum, but it's used purely for jewelry or currency and not for weapons.
  • February 4, 2012
    dalek955
    • Star Trek has Latinum, which is impossible to replicate. It's therefore the only material that can be used as currency since it's impossible to forge using a replicator.
  • February 4, 2012
    Robotrekkie
    I've seen what you call meteoric metal go by "Black Iron" in some works.
  • February 5, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the Tom Swift Jr. book series Tom and his father have used metal from a meteor which crash-landed at their manufacturing plant & sent by the "space friends" as a light but strong alloy to make space ships and other assorted metallic objects. Included in that is government work, where the free metal is used in order to be able to be the lowest bidder for government contracts.
  • March 5, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    Dalek955 - you're thinking of larasium, not Adonalsium. We have no idea what Adonalsium does, save that it's implied to be implicated in why Ruin, Preservation, the Dor, and so many others of Sanderson's magic systems seem to have unusual similarities in supposedly-unrelated works.

    Also, malatium, an alloy of atium that when burned allows the user to see the past of what they are looking at rather than the near future.
  • March 5, 2012
    dalek955
    ^Actually, Adonalsium is the god that Ruin, Preservation, Endowment, and so on are Shards of. I thought I had remembered the metal as having the same name, though.
  • March 5, 2012
    morenohijazo
    It happens from time to time that YKTT Ws get prematurely launched. The YKTTW Stars Are Souls was also prematurely launched.

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=4p16evsaqcr2lza1h32jjwk5
  • October 7, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    ^ Was that in fact confirmed? I haven't kept up on everything he's published, but last I checked the nature of Adonalsium was merely implied subtextually.

    Larasium is the metal forming Preservation's body, though, and I do remember Sanderson confirming that it was the metal that Elend swallows to become a Mistborn allomancer, while atium (and its alloy malatium) are the metal forming Ruin's body that gives allomancers Combat Precognition (and... err, post-cognition) and underlying the use of hemalurgy. (Which makes sense, given that allomancy is Preservation's magic system while hemalurgy is Ruin's.)
  • October 7, 2012
    Rotpar
    • World Of Warcraft makes heavy use of this trope. Due to Gameplay And Story Segregation there is usually little lore describing a metal's origins and properties, the main focus being new materials for the Elemental Crafting system. Exceptions include:
      • Arcanite: dull grey appearance but produces keen weapons and springy armor.
      • Dark iron: volcanic in nature, requires magma heat to work with, sensitive to magic and can be easily ruined or ruin enchantments, which can only be safely done while cooling from forging.
      • Elementium: non-native to Azeroth, brought by elementals because it can channel and absorb their powers.
      • Saronite: believed to be the crystallized "blood" of the Old God Yogg-Saron.
      • Thorium: heavy as lead, strong as steel, valued by orcs as a heavier weapon produces more force on impact.

    Edit: Alphabetization.
  • October 7, 2012
    dvorak
    Warhammer40000 has Adamantium.
  • October 7, 2012
    pcw2727
    Nileanium is mentioned in the Batman Live Action series as being the hardest metal in the world.
  • October 7, 2012
    ProfessorPancake
    In [1], the Daleks' suit... things... are made of a metal called dalekanium. This showed up in The Daleks Take Manhattan
  • October 8, 2012
    morenohijazo
    Evil Islands features Mithril, Adamantite and Meteorite. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages: Mithril is the weakest but also the lightest (this is a game where Critical Encumbrance Failure is a factor to take on mind); Meteorite is the strongest, and it's second in weight, but it's incredibly rare when compared to the other two, which can be bought; and Adamantite is second in power, but also the heaviest. All of them are better than non-magic metals, however.

    Perhaps we should create a subpage for Adamantium. It's the only one of the four main metals that lacks its own page.
  • October 8, 2012
    SharleeD
    • The Red Steel D&D setting was named for its trademark Fantasy Metal. It's the refined, alloyed form of a mineral which served as that setting's Green Rocks.
  • October 8, 2012
    shimaspawn
    This is just Unobtainium. That trope already applies to fantasy.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=i44n8li69xvq5e7932d943hr